In the early 1970s, McDonalds sought to brand its growing universe not just as an eating establishment, but as a destination attraction for children, a destination filled with toys, fun and strange, unforgettable characters.
Hence the introduction of “McDonaldland,” the “official gathering place for Ronald McDonald” and other distinctive personalities including Officer Big Mac, The Hamburglar, Grimace, Mayor McCheese, The Mad Professor and Captain Crook.
If you grew up in the disco decade, you may remember the first time you encountered all these individuals.
This strange universe of “McDonaldland” was depicted in several McDonalds TV commercials from the time, as you can see in the videos below.
A major toy company, Remco, also created licensed merchandise for the MRU (McDonalds Restaurant Universe). The company introduced its toys as “a dream come true,” and advertised the line with images of a child sleeping…and dreaming of McDonalds.
Remco eventually released seven action figures in the line, urging children to “collect them all.”
But the big ticket item or Remco’s catalog was undoubtedly the McDonaldland Playset, which could house the action figures, and came complete with a train locomotive and passenger car, as well as “Hamburglar’s paddy wagon.”
The set also came with a “family restaurant with table, drink and tray,” an “Apple Pie Tree” (with swing) and the “Golden Arches Bridge.”
Today, few of these play sets remain intact, and are highly-prized collectibles, memories of an era in which “a dream come true” meant a trip to get fast food.